Opening Shot

Just because the media says you're the front-runner, does that make it so?

Front-runner If magazine covers were votes, Clinton would win by a landslide.

At a public appearance in April, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman asked Hillary Clinton if she was interested in the 2016 presidency. Her voice answered “not right now,” even as, physically, she was grinning and nodding. As Clinton continues to play coy, though, news coverage is proceeding as though she already is the Democratic front-runner, some 30 months before the general election. BuzzFeed, The Washington Post, Politico, and The New York Times, among others, already have dedicated Clinton reporters. And Clinton has become a cover-story mainstay in a way past presumed front-runners haven’t until much closer to the primaries.

“Can Anyone Stop Hillary?” Time asked in January, a few weeks before The New York Times Magazine dubbed her “Planet Hillary.” And a recent Politico story about how a woman chucked a shoe at Clinton during a speech led with, “Hillary Clinton is a pro at ducking 2016 questions. She’s apparently also good at ducking shoes.” The presidential narrative emerges even when evading errant footwear at a scrap recycling conference.

Of course, none of this coverage means that Clinton, assuming she does run, will win her party’s nomination. Data pulled last month by the Roper Center at the University of Connecticut showed that some two years before the 2008 election, the Democratic front-runner was . . . Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama wasn’t even on the list.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.